What Manner of Creature Be This?

The Errant has frequently offered for your edification detailed reports on the fraudulent nature of the corporate reforms in “education.”

I do not plan on writing anymore about this, though will still encourage our stalwart researcher Doug Martin to comb through tax documents and let us know who’s in bed with whom.  Shining a bright light (unfortunately lacking the sterilizing power of the sun) on human malfeasance and corruption is a worthy endeavor if, in the end, it is only a human truth in the age characterized by mechanical tyranny and bureaucratic death squads.  It is our current “ground of being.”

It is because of this that I have come to feel the futility of opposition.

Saying NO to the technological horror so mindlessly accepted and promulgated as a kind of pinnacled position on the mountain range of history has become my only mantra, my only truth.

The Indiana Department of Education is only another in a long line of organizations typified by state and corporate collusion to the benefit of a small cadre of private interests; only another pushing dominance by technological systems.  A recent “guide” to restricting collective bargaining (“Permissible and Impermissible Subjects of Collective Bargaining”) sent out to state Superintendents–handmaidens to state coercion–puts the “future” succinctly enough.

The obligation to educate children and the methods by which the education is effected will change rapidly with: (i) increasing technology; (ii) the needs of an advancing civilization; and (iii) requirements for substantial educational innovation.

I don’t really know what any of those really mean other than that they are a kind of cart-leading-horse philosophy: methods are changing because the effects are being named causes in the techno-loop.

1. Increasing technology hasn’t changed what it means to learn.  Rather it’s changed how minds are manipulated by those who control the technology.

2. “The needs of an advancing civilization”: What the devil do you suppose that can even begin to mean?  Advancing in age (senescence, anyone?); Advancing as in “on the march” like our criminal military adventures?; Advancing civilization as in, the .o1% has needs of the remainder of us?

3. Why are substantial innovations “required”?  What is an “innovation” and how is it labeled “substantial.”  An innovation is only a presentation of “newness” without the corresponding heft of difference (that makes a difference) or alteration that might be cognate with change.  “New” products are old products in “innovative” packaging/designs.

This to me makes it very clear that the only thing that publication [a Melvillian slip as I meant “public education] can be “good for” is market innovations in selling educational products.  And that, at least as it is being sold today, is the clear idea behind reforms.

But who cares?  No one really, right?  Teachers do because it’s altering their world for the worse.   They are being “innovated” into subservient status as they become simply industrial line workers managing how the computers and software programs “design” the next generation of human resources.

We are in great and drastic need of more subversiveness if we intend to return to our human origins and eschew the future of science fiction horrors.  I don’t think I’ve ever read  a utopian scenario that cannot with a bare minimum of “twist” become dystopian.

The Powers among us are building a dystopia for us which they surely believe is a “utopia” for the humans who really matter and who will “save the world” for those humans, the rest be damned as “collateral damage.”  (Is it odd or simply “fact” that Hollywood told us this truth in their “2012” movie where only the wealthy and the political are saved?  Does its fictional movie presentation make it something we don’t believe because movies “aren’t real”?  Contrast with the cinematic verity of the World Trade Center destruction–how’s that for a class project in 9th grade?)

We “collaterals” go merrily down to this death because we are stupid, stupidly selfish, and blind to the common truths that take so little to recognize.

Today our local paper reports that the public school system in Gary, Indiana laid off 170 teachers.  Should these educators try to find other public education work?  Nope, there won’t be any.  But they can start their own school.  And why shouldn’t they?

Today also our paper reported that after a child graduates from high school (no longer a child one supposes) they will still be subjected to the domineering infantilization of those who administer a “testing” economy.   Apparently companies now require potential employees to take standardized tests created and administered by WorkKeys.   This horrible company also offers training, natch, called KeyTrain.  It’s all about getting credentialed but in reality “credentials” have no meaning, they are just another economy…just another education market.  This bright idea comes to you from the American College Testing Program, ACT.  Hey, assessment companies need to GROW too.  You see the problem is one of capital economy–it makes stupid, coercive, manipulative, degrading ideas into our future world by sheer force of profit motive.  (You won’t be tested on the 9/11 contrast idea above.)

Why go to high school, right?  You can just take KeyTrain courses and then take WorkKeys tests and get credentialed.  Done.  Is that the future of labor?  The future of education?

Destroy public education (no profit in it!): insert prison system education; insert job training education; insert appropriate credential up your…well, you get the idea.

What manner of creature be this?  No longer human, is the only answer I can offer.

But as a being with the ability to say “no”–I can make Bartleby my tutelary divinity and respond to these requirements and demands, “I would prefer not to.”

If you will say this too then perhaps we can “build therefore our own world” beholden to our agreed upon needs and not those sprung from the thoughtless and impetuous designs of mindless profit-grubbing minions serving an economic and political idea created to preserve and concentrate wealth and power.

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4 Comments

  1. Amy Makice May 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Adult education has become taken over as well, and it’s ugly. No longer does the idea of hiring excellent teachers matter– they are following a curriculum that doesn’t make good use of their skills. My mom teaches adult ed and she used to be able to bring in mechanical manuals, comic books, catalogs or whatever motivated students to read– something relevant to their lives. There is no room for that now.

    Carter and I were talking the other night and I realized with great sadness that I wouldn’t hope for him to go into education, unless he were also training to be part of some sort of rebellion I guess.

    Does this mean you are handing over the reins of the blog, or are you writing about other topics?

    Reply
    1. Douglas Storm May 30, 2012 at 5:05 pm

      Hi, Amy,

      I think this is true–that even when teachers believe they have the “leeway” that is their own sense of the messages being conveyed (that they teach a subversive self somehow) they are probably fooling themselves. There is no room for anyone to be “off-message.”

      Schools have always been a place with potential for exploding freedom and human liberty, especially when there was some national decision to make all high schools house small cities within them. All that energy and natural antagonism bursting just to “become.” We had to work so hard to make it one of the most deadening institutions around. Success!

      As for the blog–I will keep blogging, but mostly I will probably just write about my own reading and writing rather than simply being another guy complaining about the way the world works. Maybe I’ll sneak some attitude into a poem now and again! Watch out world!

      Reply
  2. Daniel HIckey July 6, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Doug–
    Brilliant post. I really enjoyed the rant and it gives a personal touch to the concerns you raise here.

    I agree with the need to resist, though for better or worse I have elected to immerse myself in the fight, because I think the advance of technology makes these changes inevitable.

    Once everyone realizes the folly of the latest round of test driven reforms, it might change for the better. I am hoping that advanced role of knowledge network technological advances will make it so obvious that new paradigms of teaching (and assessing and evaluating etc.) are necessary if schools and universities are to remain relevant.

    I just blogged about this in the context of digital badges, which threaten for informal education what tests have done to formal education. http://bit.ly/OpsePw

    Which brings me to one issue I have with your post. Increasing technology HAS changed what it means to learn. Networked participatory environments like fan fiction afford consequential engagement, where even a newcomers actions can have real consequences for what is valued in that environment. In traditional schools consequential engagement was limited to non-academic practices (think sex and drugs and rock & roll) but the academic knowledge was sacrosanct.

    In immersive educational games or networked learning environments, all of our traditional assumptions need to be rethought. For example, I am finding that the well documented negative consequences of incentives don’t seem to occur. This is why I think digital badges should be really helpful in new learning spaces that afford consequential engagement with valued knowledge, but will likely be problematic in conventional spaces that do not.

    Keep blogging!

    Reply
    1. Douglas Storm July 8, 2012 at 12:12 pm

      Here’s my aggressive bias: You are speaking out of the Academic Education Industry; you are speaking from the inside and seeking a “solution” that is on the whole coercive in effect if not intent.

      Why do we suppose we need folks to manipulate our “mass of men”?

      Thoreau, this may be oblique in its relevance, says in Resistance to Civil Government (and in this aren’t you acting as a kind of expert who wishes to govern):

      “However, the government does not concern me much, and I shall bestow the fewest possible thoughts on it. It is not many moments that I live under a government, even in this world. If a man is thought-free, fancy-free, imagination-free, that which is not never for a long time appearing to be to him, unwise rulers or reformers cannot fatally interrupt him.

      I know that most men think differently from myself; but those whose lives are by profession devoted to the study of these or kindred subjects content me as little as any. Statesmen and legislators, standing so completely within the institution, never distinctly and nakedly behold it. They speak of moving society, but have no resting-place without it. They may be men of a certain experience and discrimination, and have no doubt invented ingenious and even useful systems, for which we sincerely thank them; but all their wit and usefulness lie within certain not very wide limits. They are wont to forget that the world is not governed by policy and expediency. Webster never goes behind government, and so cannot speak with authority about it. His words are wisdom to those legislators who contemplate no essential reform in the existing government; but for thinkers, and those who legislate for all time, he never once glances at the subject. I know of those whose serene and wise speculations on this theme would soon reveal the limits of his mind’s range and hospitality. Yet, compared with the cheap professions of most reformers, and the still cheaper wisdom an eloquence of politicians in general, his are almost the only sensible and valuable words, and we thank Heaven for him. Comparatively, he is always strong, original, and, above all, practical. Still, his quality is not wisdom, but prudence. The lawyer’s truth is not Truth, but consistency or a consistent expediency.

      Reply

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